When I return to a known vacation spot, I hope for a mix of things fondly remembered and things unexpected. I’m eager to see whether remembered splendors still shine the second time around, and to add new sights and sounds to my sensory treasure chest.
During our recent week on Prince Edward Island (PEI), I reveled again in many things we experienced ten years ago. Here are just five of them:
- Sighting colourful lupines blooming by the roadside.
- Strolling along the boardwalk at the Charlottetown harbor, this time with tall ships framed against a gray sky.
- Savoring the richness of PEI’s own Cows ice cream with its 16% butterfat!
- Seeing Anne of Green Gables – the Musical once again, as vibrant and endearing as ever in its 53rd year.
- Walking the Greenwich Dunes Trail at PEI National Park, still amazed at its varying habitats. In 45 minutes we sauntered down an old farm lane, picked our way through a woodlot, and crossed over Bowley Pond on a floating “boardwalk” (now made of hard plastic).
Then came the hard climb to the top of the dunes with a stunning view of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, followed by a careful descent down to the beach.
I loved standing at the top of the dunes and looking both directions – to the boardwalk behind me and the ocean in front of me.
But what held my fullest attention this time on PEI were the sights, sounds and sensations of a place we hadn’t explored before. North Cape, at the northern tip of the island on the western side, hosts the Atlantic Wind Test Site and the Wind Farm Interpretive Centre.
A publicity brochure calls Cape North “a symphony for the senses.” Standing in this harsh yet wonderful windswept place where land meets sea, I agreed.
I felt enveloped by the soft swoosh of many types of wind turbines, with the rhythmic hiss of the surf as counterpoint. I watched the lighthouse flash its steady warning to ships about the rock reef extending two kilometers offshore.
I marveled at the waters of the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence merging with their different colours. And on the shore, my eyes took in the Irish moss, a type of seaweed being harvested with a moss scoop.
On a dune by the research station, I spotted two red foxes outside their dens, surrounded by a meadow of wildflowers. And at the Wind and Reef Restaurant on the grounds, I relished the melt-in-your-mouth goodness of the best grilled haddock I’ve ever eaten.
But while I enjoyed these splendors of PEI, another set of realities also clamored for my attention.
We deliberately planned our trip to PEI to coincide with Canada Day, thinking Charlottetown would be a fascinating place to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday on July 1. For after all, the Charlottetown Conference of 1864 is what got the confederation ball rolling, despite the poor welcome for its delegates. (They needed to sleep on board their ships the first night, since a travelling circus had filled up all the available land accommodations!)
I was indeed in Charlottetown for Canada’s 150th birthday. But strangely, I didn’t much feel like celebrating. I watched exuberant people decked out in red, and caught the tail end of a parade in a nearby town, but my spirit was heavy.
For the image of that tepee pitched on the grounds of Parliament Hill in Ottawa stayed with me. It brought to mind so clearly the reality of who was not represented at the Charlottetown Conference or any other deliberations about confederation of the British North American colonies. The fallout continues 153 years later….
Questions for Reflection:
- When you return to a known vacation spot, what mix between things fondly remembered and things unexpected are you hoping for?
- Where have you experienced “a symphony for the senses”?
- At times of national celebration, how do you deal with the reality that some groups such as indigenous people were not at the table, with unhealed consequences to this day?